Today is Peter’s turn to say goodbye to 4 titles from his batch and announce his semi-finalist, our fourth in SPFBO 6! We only have 1 more such reaping to go next week before we start reviewing our semi-finalists! We’ll do so in the same order as they were picked, without our ratings to keep things interesting – even for ourselves.
Now, you might have spotted that we have only 5 in Peter’s batch and that’s because Sworn Guardian by T. L. Branson was disqualified from the competition due to being published by an independent publisher.
Political Nightmare by Rainbow Maccabre
The girl who was blessed when Daddy killed Mommy; the bird lady born with four arms and no wings; King Kess’s trans widower; the most forgettable prince who ever died; secret agents popping up everywhere: and the mind controlling bunny rabbit.
Who will put an end to Vasagne’s dark conspiracy.
Political Nightmare weaves a plot through past and present to arrange a story full of twists.
This was actually an interesting read for me, it probed into some areas where writers rarely take you and for me that was refreshing. The flip side of this is that it might be a tad bit off putting for some people. The book employed split timelines with multiple characters, this is again something that might throw some people off. One final point, it does employ non human characters as protagonists which again is a plus for it. This is also one of the few books in my batch that I made it all the way through.
Silver Mage by C M Debell
The dragons once sacrificed everything to destroy their enemy. They failed. Now the burden of that failure falls on the man they have called to reforge what their war destroyed – the link between the races and the magic that holds the world together.
Touched by elemental Fire, Aarin is driven by his need to return the dragons to Andeira. But the dragons vanished three thousand years ago, taking their magic with them, and their ancient partnership with mankind is now no more than legend. Even the memory of the magic they shared is fading, and Aarin’s obsession has made him an outsider even to his own people.
But when he is confronted by a magic he thought long lost, he suddenly finds himself in conflict with powerful forces intent on preventing the return of the dragons at all costs. And, deadlier still, the machinations of an age-old power that would sacrifice anything to see them returned, even the life of the man they have waited thousands of years to find.
Beset on all sides, Aarin must sort friend from foe and unravel the mysteries of a past long forgotten. Because, to survive, he must first discover the secret of why the dragons left – and what they risked everything to destroy.
I was really excited to read this, I really was, as the cover was intriguing and when I started reading it was good, but then the main story happened. This was just not what I was expecting when nothing really happened for page upon page, the author has good descriptive skill though and the world was easy to imagine. This was just not for me, the characters were interesting but the constant switching between some perspectives and then in chapter swaps sometimes without warning did not make it easy reading for me.
That said, it does have an intriguing elemental magic system that kept me grounded and interested enough to finish the book. It was a rules based system and that was at least a well done part of the book.
Sentenced to Troll by S. L. Rowland
Punished for his toxic online behavior, Chad faces a thirty-day sentence of full-immersion therapy designed to improve his anger issues. For his endless trolling in real life, he’s forced to play the most hated race in Isle of Mythos so that he can finally experience what it’s like to be on the other side.
To make matters worse, the heroes sent to rid the world of evil aren’t heroes at all—they’re violent felons on their own twisted paths to redemption.
Now, Chad must survive his one-month sentence in a world where anything goes.
This was one of the more interesting ideas in my batch, and I tip my hat to the author for such an original idea as well as taking one of fantasy’s less fortunate races and putting them in a starring role.
The problem I had with this is that the book doesn’t know what it wants, is this LitRPG or something else? It is never really defined and this caused me to take my time with this one, but the lack of the main character arc caused the book to really just not resonate with me. It does have some interesting ideas and distinct secondary characters/NPCs, but even these could be a little bit flat and it caused me to sadly not finish the book. A really nice idea from the author but this one is for the reaping I am afraid.
Aftershocks by Grace Bridges
They saved a town with the help of the creatures that command the geysers. They saved a city from volcanic eruption. Surely they’ve earned a break?
Tell that to the Titanosaur.
Now the faultline network is active, threatening all of central New Zealand with aftershocks that might be bigger than the initial event. Amateur geologist Anira Fraser is in Picton, facing her final high school athletics competition.
Along with her friend Tiger McRae, she realises their presence is disturbing the area’s guardian spirits. Soon other Earthcore members arrive in town and discover an old enemy stirring up fresh trouble, while the locals hint at the legend of a mysterious taniwha war that could worsen the series of quakes.
It’s up to Anira and the Earthcore team to find the cause of the war and end it–otherwise they themselves could be responsible for a cataclysmic natural disaster.
So this was certainly one of the more interesting books in my batch and then I saw it was book 3 in a series…although apparently it is a standalone novel.
I just couldn’t get in to this one which was a shame because at its heart this is a superhero story! The characters had interesting powers which made it interesting, but the fact this was a book in a series, I struggled with understanding what was going on, or at least the backstory. The powers/magic system was cool and was an interesting part of the book that did pique my interest, but sadly this was another book I just did not finish after valiantly trying to.
The Hunter’s Gambit by Nicholas McIntire
No one promised Aleksei Drago an easy life. Growing up amongst the Ri-Vhan of Seil Wood, losing his mother and just as suddenly being torn from the forest folk, Aleksei had no choice but to make the best of an unpredictable situation.
But what happens when the monsters and figures of fiction become horrifyingly real? How will Aleksei cope? When the stakes are at their highest, will he finally falter? Or will he rise to the occasion, reforging himself into the man Prophecy demands he become? In a world of magic and Magi, of Angels and Demons alike, how will a simple farm boy survive his own contorted destiny?
This is the story of a seemingly-simple world gone mad, and the reality that every action, no matter how apparently benign, can serve to unravel terrifying truths. This is the story of Aleksei Drago, farmer, Hunter, and so much more.
This is my first post ever for the SPFBO and it has been brilliant reading some original ideas, settings and characters. The Hunter’s Gambit stood out and spoke to me in a way that only epic fantasy can, that’s my semi finalist pick for Team RockStarlit!
“It was a brilliant example of character driven fantasy with a high stakes plot, a coming of age storyline woven in skilfully with a main character pulled and pushed between several characters.”
Congrats to our fourth semi-finalist, The Hunter’s Gambit by Nicholas McIntire! Look out for our joint review later on.
To keep up with our process and the competition, please check out my SPFBO 6 Phase 1 page!